Can Leopard Geckos Eat Hornworms?

If you’ve ever wondered if leopard geckos eat hornworms, this article is for you! I have conducted the proper research to answer this question thoroughly. 

Leopard geckos can eat hornworms safely as part of their overall diet. I would not recommend them as a staple diet but they can definitely be part of a well balanced regiment. 

Now that you know they can consume these worms, I will be going over more information that will be useful when making a decision to utilize these feeders.

Are Hornworms Good For Leopard Geckos?

So we know that leos can eat hornworms but are they a good healthy choice to offer? The answer is it depends. There are various reasons why you would want or not want to offer these insects. In my experience there is no “perfect” feeder on the market. All bugs will have their benefits and drawbacks including hornworms. They contain lots of calcium and are great for hydrating your Leos but do have lower amounts of protein which is essential for building muscle mass.

Below I have compiled a small list of pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Easy to digest with little to no chitin
  • Full of water and very good for hydrating
  • Slow moving and easy to catch
  • Low fat content
  • Come in different sizes and grow quickly
  • Easily distinguished and recognizable due to their blue or green coloration. This actually entices your Leos.

Cons:

  • They are expensive
  • Do not gutload well. They like to eat sweeter foods and tend to shy away from healthy options. This limits the added nutrition they can pass on to your geckos.
  • Low protein content
  • Addicting and can cause leos to be stubborn eaters
  • Have a short lifespan and must be fed within a couple months.
  • Due to their large size, it can be difficult for even adults to swallow.

These bugs are amazing for rehabbing sick and dehydrated Leos. They are full of water and very filling. Their slow movement makes them easy prey items for all life stages

I would recommend them as a treat, once a week or every other week. Otherwise they can get expensive real fast.

The nutritional value of a hornworm is 

  • 9% protein
  • 4% calcium
  • 3% fat
  • 85% moisture content

Being insectivores, leopard geckos need a certain amount of protein to maintain optimal health. Higher levels of protein aid in better growth. Since some feeder insects contain 18-24% protein, I would recommend those over hornworms. They include mealworms, superworms, dubia roaches, and crickets.

Can Hornworms Hurt Leopard Geckos?

Are hornworms safe for leopard geckos or can they hurt them? The answer again is, it depends. Hornworms are not known to bite or injure leopard geckos and other reptiles. They are soft bodied and fairly docile. 

Choking

 

Known for their goliath size, they can potentially cause choking or swallowing issues for your leos. They are also fairly powerful and plump making them difficult to kill for your leos. For this reason I stress feeding the appropriate sized insect. Also, when reptiles are hungry they can be overly excited. They tend to not chew or kill their prey correctly and this can cause them to choke.Remember to only offer prey items the width of the space between your geckos eyes. It’s also important to space out your feedings.

I like to feed one bug at a time and make sure they are taken down completely before offering another. A leo could accidentally grab two worms at a time which can be difficult to swallow. Lastly, you want to purchase small to medium sized worms. Even adult geckos cannot handle full grown hornworms and most choking occurs with prey items that are too big. 

 

Toxicity

 

In the wild, these worms consume tomato leaves and fruits. This makes them toxic to most captive bred reptiles. Other plant leaves can make them toxic including tobacco, peppers, and eggplants. The toxicity can harm your leopard geckos and the consequences can be potentially lethal. I never recommend feeding wild caught hornworms for this reason. Most insects will also carry parasites and bacteria that are harmful to your lizard. These parasites will live in the gut of your pet and can make them very sick. It really isn’t worth the risk and there’s no accurate way to tell if the wild specimens will have parasites or not. As you can see, these worms alone won’t really pose a threat to your leopard geckos. Generally, hornworms are safe for your leopard gecko. 

On a side note you may notice that these insects contain a spike or horn. They are completely harmless and very soft.Your Leo should have no issues digesting them.

How Many Hornworms Can A Leopard Gecko Eat?

When using hornworms, you may want to know how many a leopard gecko can consume in one setting. This will depend on the size of your leopard gecko.

  • Hatchlings will consume around 2-4 worms per feeding on average
  • Juveniles will eat around 6-8 worms
  • Adults will eat 4-6 worms

As stated you want to use them as an occasional treat. I recommend feeding them only once a week or every other week. You want to limit the amount and quantity of bugs you offer. Too many or feeding too often will cause loose and watery stools. This is due to their high moisture content. To make things easier, just follow the guidelines above. 

I want to caution you overfeeding your leopard gecko hornworms. This will cause them to become very picky eaters. They are highly addictive and I believe the coloration entices your pet to choose them over other feeders. There is nothing more frustrating than having a lizard refuse food for weeks on end. You also want a balanced diet as this promotes health and nutrition. 

How To Dust Hornworms For Leopard Geckos

Dusting hornworms for leopard geckos is a fairly simple process and can be done quickly. Dusting is essentially coating a thin layer of nutritious powder over your worms. 

Your gecko will then absorb these nutrients as a result of eating the insects.

  1. Take a Ziploc bag
  2. Pinch a small amount of multivitamin and calcium powder.
  3. Place powder in bag
  4. Take worms and place them in a bag.
  5. Gently shake the worms until nicely coated
  6. Feed to your Leos

You want to do this every feeding to provide the best nutrients to your reptiles.  The supplements will help with any imbalances in nutrients.

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